|Luke Harangody looked as if he belonged on a pitcher’s mound making this pass. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
They’re already on their game
Defense is sharp; Shaq fits right in
MANCHESTER, N.H. — They held the Philadelphia 76ers to 18 of 67 shooting. They forced 22 turnovers and flipped the miscues into 24 points and on a night when they showed off some new faces — namely the 325-pound Shaquille O’Neal — then relied on a familiar calling card to breeze by a bareboned 76ers team, 93-65.
Ray Allen scored a Celtics’ high 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, draining 2 of 3 3-point attempts in 21 minutes, but more surprisingly pulling down eight rebounds. Starting by default with Jermaine O’Neal nursing a tweaked hamstring, Shaq played a little more than 15 minutes, scoring 8 points on 4-of-5 shooting, and fitting in on defense by anchoring himself in the paint, almost like a goalie.
“Our defense was phenomenal,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Just the ball pressure that I thought Nate [Robinson] and [Rajon] Rondo – Rondo in particular — put on the ball allowed everybody to do their jobs. So, I was really happy.’’
Playing without Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Andres Nocioni and Tony Battie, the Sixers shot 26.9 percent. Thaddeus Young scored a team-high 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
The Celtics shot 57.1 percent in the first half, taking a 49-22 lead into the break.
“It seemed like we were in a lot of rhythm,’’ said Rondo, who had seven assists in 21 minutes. “That’s a good step for it to be the first preseason game.’’
Glen Davis and Semih Erden tallied 13 points each, going a combined 16 of 18 from the free throw line.
What didn’t sit well with Rivers was the Celtics’ 20 giveaways, 12 of which came in the first half.
“We were a little sloppy,’’ Rivers said. “That was the only thing I didn’t like in the first half.’’
Still, Rivers was pleased by the team defense.
“If we can play with that type of intensity and that type of ball pressure every night, we’re going to be tough to score on.’’
Still, guarding the O’Neals has helped Erden.
“It’s really great for him [that] he’s playing against Shaq every day in practice,’’ Rivers said. “I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, because we don’t call those offensive fouls in practice. He has to play through it. So for him to play against somebody else, it was probably a joy.’’
“It was intentional,’’ Rondo said. “He just didn’t jump. And at the time I should have thrown it, I didn’t throw it. So, we’re going to get our timing together. It’s all about chemistry. We haven’t thrown any in practice either so I’m sure we’ll get it.’’
Garnett joked that he felt like a rookie. Rondo said he looked sharp when they were on the floor together.
“He looks good,’’ Rondo said. “He’s running the floor. He wanted to pick up with me a couple times defensively, but I wouldn’t let him.’’
Paul Pierce sat out the second half because he felt ill but he said after the game he was fine. “It was just a little stomach ache that was bothering me,’’ he said. “But I’ll be all right.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.